In a groundbreaking stride toward eradicating the dependence on regular insulin injections, scientists at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute have unveiled a revolutionary breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes.
Their research, published in the prestigious Nature scientific journal, showcases the ability to regenerate insulin in pancreatic stem cells, bringing hope to millions living with diabetes worldwide.
Led by Professor Sam El-Osta, the team demonstrated that newly produced insulin cells can kick into action within 48 hours when stimulated by two FDA-approved drugs. This discovery isn’t limited by age, showing promise from 7 to 61 years old and providing valuable insights into beta cell regeneration mechanisms.
The breakthrough involved using pancreatic cells from donors with type 1 diabetes, both young and adult, as well as non-diabetic individuals. The team showcased the ability to regenerate insulin-producing cells that are typically damaged in type 1 diabetes, giving hope for a functional and glucose-sensitive insulin response.
What sets this research apart is the use of small molecule inhibitors, already in use for rare cancers and approved by the FDA. These inhibitors can rapidly restore insulin production in pancreatic cells damaged by diabetes. Unlike current diabetes medications that control blood glucose levels but don’t address the destruction of insulin-secreting cells, this new approach holds the potential to be the first disease-modifying treatment for type 1 diabetes.
Our researchers show how they can regenerate pancreatic #betacells to produce insulin using FDA-approved drugs, potentially replacing the need for insulin injections. Super exciting work @SamElOsta1 @KeithAlHasani & Safiya Naina Marikarhttps://t.co/E05YhuOWD8
— Baker Institute (@BakerResearchAu) January 1, 2024
The impact extends beyond type 1 diabetes, offering hope to the 30 percent of Australians dealing with insulin-dependent diabetes within type 2 diabetes. Additionally, this breakthrough addresses the challenge of organ shortages by focusing on pharmacological therapies that rejuvenate pancreas function.
Professor El-Osta sees this as a crucial step toward clinical development, emphasising the significance of understanding the regenerative process.
“We consider this regenerative approach an important advance towards clinical development,” Professor El-Osta said.
“Until now, the regenerative process has been incidental, and lacking confirmation, more importantly the epigenetic mechanisms that govern such regeneration in humans remains poorly understood.”
As the research progresses, the need for practical applications becomes urgent. With over 530 million adults worldwide living with diabetes and that number expected to rise to 643 million by 2030, this breakthrough has the potential to bring relief to millions by reducing the reliance on constant insulin injections.
The promise of a future marked by reduced medical interventions beckons for individuals grappling with the complexities of diabetes, heralding a potential era of improved quality of life.